The 2019 Women's WorldTour will resume at the 42th edition of Trofeo Alfredo Binda-Comune di Cittiglio on Sunday. Outside of the Giro d'Italia Internazionale Femminile, the race is one of the most historical women's events in Italy.
The race is named after the first road world champion Alfredo Binda, who was born in Cittiglio, and went on to win the Giro d'Italia five times, along with a total of three world titles and two at Milan-San Remo.
The first Trofeo Alfredo Binda was a local race in 1974 but it grew in stature until being recognised as a national event in 1999, and then it moved up to international status in 2007. It formed part of the former World Cup circuit from 2008 until 2015, and then joined the Women's WorldTour in 2016, where it has been a staple for the previous four seasons.
The hilly route caters to just about every type of rider from puncheurs to climbers, time triallists and sprinters. Giuseppina Micheloni won the inaugural race in 1974, and more recent winners include Fabiana Luperini, Nicole Cooke, Marianne Vos, Elisa Longo Borghini, Lizzie Deignan, Coryn Rivera and defending champion Kasia Niewiadoma.
The 131.1km route from Taino to Cittiglio is hilly, and it ends with four finishing loops, each of which includes a 3.1km climb to Orino before descending back into Cittiglio, and over one small rise to the finish line.
The Women's WorldTour started in Italy at Strade Bianche, a popular but relatively young race, on March 9, where Annemiek van Vleuten (Mitchelton-Scott) won the race and took the first leader's jersey. The series then travelled to the Netherlands for Ronde van Drenthe, won by Marta Bastianelli (Virtu), who in turn took the series lead with 300 points.
Bastianelli has had a strong start to her season that also includes a victory at Omloop van het Hageland and fourth place at Strade Bianche. The route almost perfectly-suits the likes of the European champion and former world champion. However, she is not listed to compete this weekend.
Van Vleuten is also not participating in the event but Mitchelton-Scott will field a worthy contender in Amanda Spratt, who returns to racing after suffering a head injury in a crash at Strade Bianche.
Niewiadoma will return with support from Canyon-SRAM to defend her title. She's also shown a strong early-season form after placing third at Strade Bianche. Last year, she attacked twice on the final circuit and soloed to the victory ahead of a small-group sprint where Chantal Blaak (Boels Dolmans) beat Marianne Vos (then WaowDeals). The team will also field classics specialist Elena Cecchini.
"Last year's victory for me was a great moment with my teammates, and I was super, super happy," Niewiadoma said. "We were in control of the race no matter what other teams were doing and when I attacked solo, I just put my head down and pushed hard all the way to the finish line, and I never looked back."
American Katie Hall will join her new Boels Dolmans team for the first time on this year's Women's WorldTour, but the team will have other strong cards to play in Omloop Het Nieuwsblad winner Chantal Blaak, who was second place last year, and Le Samyn winner Jip van den Bos.
Bigla's Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig, who was third in 2017 edition, will be a player on the climb to Orino, as will Movistar's Eider Merino.
CCC-Liv lines up three-time winner Vos, who was third last year, but they also have options with Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio and Jeanne Korevaar.
Trek-Segafredo bring former winner Longo Borghini, who is perfect for the punchy terrain, but they also have options with mountain bike specialist Jolanda Neff, who was third in 2016, and Ruth Winder.
Former world champion Tatiana Guderzo (Bepink) will also be racing, and as one of the strongest Italians in the race, it will be one she wants to do well at her home race. She had a strong 2018 season finishing off with the bronze medal at the World Championships in Innsbruck.
Although the race has a challenging climb on each of the final four laps, the flatter sections in between, particularly on the run-in to the finish in Cittiglio means that the race could, and has, come together for a small group sprint.
Rivera will be one of the marked sprinters in the field, after her win in the 2017 edition, as will her Sunweb teammate Leah Kirchmann after her success at Omloop van het Hageland earlier this month.
Arlenis Sierra (Astana) will also be a strong contender for the victory and will surely want to improve on her second-place performance in 2017.
Italians to watch include former junior world champion Elena Pirrone (Astana), Women's WorldTour youth champion Sofia Betrizzolo (Virtu), Italian champion Marta Cavalli (Valcar-Cylance), Elisa Balsamo (Valcar-Cylance) and Soraya Paladin (Ale Cipollini).